Tennessee slightly reduces penalties for marijuana possession


Last update: August 24, 2016


In Tennessee, third and subsequent convictions for the possession of marijuana used to be felonies, punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000. But this year the legislature reduced that penalty to a misdemeanor, so people convicted of non-violent possession of most drugs will no longer suffer the stigma of a life-long felony record.

Unfortunately, Tennessee’s penalties are still extremely harsh. Even first-time possession of any amount of marijuana can still land you in jail for up to a year and force you to pay a fine of between $250 and $2,500. Tens of thousands of cases enter the system each year, families are impacted, and futures jeopardized. In addition, the laws are enforced unequally: In 2010, there were four African Americans arrested for every white arrested, despite the fact that both races consume marijuana at about the same rate.

Please ask your legislators to support replacing criminal penalties with civil fines for simple possession. Or, you can ask your legislators to support legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use.

Medical marijuana laws in Tennessee


In 2014, Tennessee passed a law intended to allow seriously ill seizure patients to have access to cannabis oil containing large amounts of CBD and only trace amounts of THC. The legislature modified the law in both 2015 and 2016; click here for a summary of the current version. While the law does provide protections for a few patients who are able to meet its difficult requirements, it requires them to travel across state lines to a state where cannabis oil can be obtained and return to Tennessee.

While continuing to tweak a law that excludes many patients, the legislature remains far behind the public on the issue of medical cannabis. It rejected compassionate, comprehensive medical marijuana bills that were introduced in 2016. In contrast, in early 2014, an MTSU poll indicated that 75% of Tennesseans support access to medical cannabis. Please take a moment to encourage your legislators to pass a meaningful medical marijuana bill that can help patients with serious medical conditions.

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